Reading Review:
The 2000 Year Old Man by Mel Brooks & Carl Reiner

by Michael Channing

The 2000 Year Old Man book cover

It just so happened that a week after I listened to Marc Maron interview Brooks and Reiner, I came across this at the library. Coincidence? Read the book. Which I did. I've known of the existence of the 2000 Year Old Man records for a while, but never listened. Still haven't. Maybe I will some day. I'm sure half the humor is in Mel doing the old man's voice. But the material, the words at least, are all here in the book. And is it funny? Well, you gotta be open to it.

The main humorous vein lies in the contradictions. Here's a guy as old as the calendar, and the most important inventions in history, according to him? Saran Wrap and Prell shampoo. He meets the most influential people in history but only remembers silly little things about them. Jesus would come to the old man's store but never buy anything. Moses gave the stone tablet to his parents to display in a frame on the mantel. The old guy recounts the discovery of women, the invention of hospitals, the development of song, and most things involved pain or fear and took place in a cave. Apparently humanity crawled out of the cave less than 2000 years ago, and when they did they were almost indistinguishable from us now. And therein lies my problem with the material.

Hey, I know it's just a few comedy records made up on the fly. Carl would make up questions in the studio, and Mel would improvise answers. No scripts, no rehearsals. It's just play, but I find it hard to suspend my disbelief. Really, 2000 years ago, during the time of the Roman Empire, people lived in caves and didn't understand fire or the separation of the genders? But the 2000 Year Old Man records are legendary. They sold millions. So why can't I get into it?

Because it's written. It looks like a script, like something planned and proofread and typeset with editor's approval. Living in caves 2000 years ago? Your facts check out. It's this above all else that prevents me from buying the 2000 year claim. But maybe that's point. Maybe he's not really as old as he says. Maybe he's just making up things so people will keep interviewing him. Hmmm...

There are some funny bits in the book. The old guy says Winston Churchill's poor elocution lengthened the war. Churchill said everyone had to fight the "Narzis," so the old man and his platoon of eight searched all over Europe for Narzis instead of the real enemy. Their help could have ended the war years sooner.

I see the book as a document of work done by two guys who went on to do greater things. 'Tis silly and nothing more.

Bookmark I used:

playing card promo of a guy teaching(?) children how to make smoke rings with his fingers

This is a promo card for the role-playing game Everway, which I've never played. But the picture here is of a mystical wise guy passing down sage advice to the wee ones, knowledge like how to make obscene images with smoke rings and roll your Alice Cooper eyes back in your head.

This Old Man's Advice: Keep Reading

foolscap Home       Podcast       Essays       Poems       Songs       Videos       Stories       Images foolscap

Chokes and Warbles
Now Available

Chokes and Warbles, a collection of essays and poems by Michael Channing